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Are Boards in the UK struggling to understand the cyber risk compared to their international counterparts?

Levels of concern and focus on cyber risk can vary from one organisation to another, regardless of their location. While some UK boards may appear to be less concerned with cyber risk compared to their international counterparts, the level of concern often depends on various factors, including the specific industry, the organisation’s size, its prior experiences with cyber incidents, and its understanding of the evolving cyber threat landscape.

A recent article in Infosecurity magazine indicated that in a recent Pwc study by in 2022 found that 59% of directors admitted their board is not very effective in understanding the drivers and impacts of cyber risks for their organisation, while another by Russell Reynolds in the same year showed that a majority “only somewhat” understood their cyber security vulnerabilities.

Another article in Infosecurity magazine last week also suggests that in a recent survey by Proofpoint “just 44% of UK board members are concerned about cyber security risk, down significantly from 76% last year. This is compared to 73% of global board members who feel at risk of a material cyber-attack, a figure which rose from 65% in 2022.”

So why, with so much media attention focused on prominent organisations falling foul of the latest cyber threat, are UK Boards appearing lacklustre in their approach to the ever-evolving cyber risk landscape compared to International businesses?

Here are a few factors that might contribute to the perception that some UK boards are less concerned with cyber risk:

Regulatory Environment: The regulatory landscape for cyber security can vary from one country to another. In the UK, there are cyber security regulations and guidelines in place, such as the NIS Directive and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which require organisations to implement certain cyber security measures and report data breaches. However, the level of regulatory enforcement and scrutiny can differ from country to country. Some international counterparts may have more stringent cyber security regulations and enforcement mechanisms in place, which could influence board-level concern. However, with so much regulatory change occurring in the UK, surely Boards should pay particular attention to cyber risk?

Awareness and Education: Cyber security awareness and education can vary within boards of directors. Some boards may have members with a strong understanding of cyber risks, while others may lack such expertise. A lack of awareness and education at the board level can lead to a lower level of concern or a blaze attitude that its something that “happens to others not us” and it will be dealt with if and when it happens.

Budget and Resource Allocation: Organisations allocate resources, including budget and personnel, based on perceived risks and priorities. If a board does not fully grasp the potential impact of cyber risks or the need for robust cyber security measures, they may allocate fewer resources to this area.

Historical Experience: Organisations that have not experienced significant cyber incidents may be less inclined to prioritise cyber risk management. Conversely, organisations that have suffered cyberattacks or data breaches may be more proactive in addressing these risks.

Industry Differences: Different industries face varying levels of cyber risk. Some industries, such as finance and healthcare, have historically been targeted more frequently by cybercriminals due to the sensitive nature of their data. Boards in these industries may have a higher level of concern compared to boards in industries with lower perceived risk.

Board Composition: The composition of a board can influence its approach to cyber risk. Boards that include members with cyber security expertise or a background in technology may be more attuned to the importance of cyber risk management.

So what can be done to engage a Board to fully address Cyber Risk?

Here are 5 key things that CISO’s and other cyber security professionals can implement to address this issue:

  1. Cyber Risk Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive cyber risk assessment to identify and prioritise potential threats and vulnerabilities. Share the results with the board and explain the potential impact on the organisation’s operations, reputation, and finances.
  2. Business Impact Analysis: Illustrate the potential financial and operational consequences of cyberattacks. This can help the board understand the real-world implications of inadequate cyber security measures.
  3. Cyber security Frameworks: Implement recognised cyber security frameworks such as NIST Cyber security Framework or ISO 27001 to demonstrate a structured approach to managing cyber risks.
  4. Cyber security Metrics: Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) or key risk indicators (KRIs) and cyber security metrics to measure the effectiveness of cyber security efforts. Use these metrics to track progress and communicate the organisation’s cyber security posture to the board.

And here’s the key one:

  1. Regular Reporting: Provide regular, concise, and easily understandable reports on the organisation’s cyber security posture. These reports should include key metrics, recent incidents, threat trends, and progress on cyber security initiatives.

It’s essential to recognise that the perception of board-level concern regarding cyber risk can change over time as awareness grows, regulations evolve, and high-profile cyber incidents occur. Many organisations, both in the UK and globally, are increasingly recognising the importance of robust cyber security practices and the potential consequences of failing to address cyber risks adequately. As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, it’s expected that more organisations will prioritise cyber risk management on their agendas.

Do you need support engaging the Board as to the levels of cyber risk in your organisation? Our Continuous Controls Monitoring platform connects to any data source, aligns to any framework and monitors any control for that single source of truth into your security, risk and compliance posture.

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